Buckling is defined as lifting off the sub-floor surface and can be found on concrete sub floors and wood sub-floors. All flooring can buckle even carpet and stone floors, given the needed conditions to expand in size. Wood, by its nature, swells with the increase of moisture content and shrinks with the loss of moisture content.
Buckling is the result of wood floors swelling and having no place to go but up and off the sub-floor. The condition needed to result in buckling is the addition of moisture or water to the flooring. Flooding is the obvious, with increase in moisture the most difficult to detect.
Flooding from broken pipes, appliances or water overflowing the bathtub or sinks are common sources of water flooding hardwood flooring. These conditions are easily detected because they are visible and easily seen. Flooded floors may not buckle if the water is removed soon after the event and dried using fans and de-humidifiers. But allowing water to remain in the wood flooring will most likely result in the floor swelling and buckling.
The addition of moisture, from environmental vapor, is difficult to identify and may require a certified professional or inspector to determine. This condition stems from installing dry wood in a damp environment or the environment changing after the installation.
In southern states we see this condition after hurricanes and the resulting power failures. The interior of the home increases in relative humidity and wood moisture content causing the boards to swell and lift off the sub-floor. The buckling condition allows movement of the flooring boards causing a “popping” sound and sometimes a “squeaking” noise caused by two boards rubbing together.
Buckling may not be a repairable condition and may require removal and re-installation